No, it's a K-truck on fire!
Ahhh, no. It was 三九六 today. Sankuro is the local build-a-huge-pyre-of-daruma-bamboo-paper-and-pine-dowse-it-in-kero-light-it-and-stand-well-back festival. All the pine New Year decorations and the bamboo explode like crackers and shoot out everywhere. The big tree thing in the middle eventually falls over with a cloud of sparks and fire. Kids stand around with bits of flour, sugar and water on sticks (mayudama) and singe their eyebrows while toast/burning them. The men stand around drinking shochu and munching away on the ubiquitous fish sausage and the women try and keep their darlings out of the fire. All this is done in the dark in January. Surely up there in the list of months in Nagano that are not terribly suited to nocturnal outdoor gatherings. The fire is so hot you are burning on the front and the wind is so cold you are freezing on the back.
Somehow though all this discomfort is what makes it fun. Kids can't believe they're going out at night in the cold, mothers can't believe they're a) encouraging it and b) going with them and the men are just looking forward to the shochu and fish sausage so everyone rugs up to the hilt and heads out. It's also the end of the New Year festivities here. Everyone has spent 10 days living it up with their family and rellies from near and far and this is the first community gathering of the season. First chance to exchange gossip and there's loads of it around.
"Did you see Mr N's son didn't come back this year?"
"Is that Mr. M's grandchildren here still?"
"Hear the shouting at the A's over New Year?"
Yup, snow, sleet or minus temperatures it's an event not to be missed.
Amy takes the roasting of the mayudama very seriously
How are they Meg? Hmmm.... I think they taste better to kids who don't know roasted marshmallows....
I was enjoying myself. Really. Not as much as Amy seems to be but at least as much as Meg. I blame the lack of smile to having lost feeling in my face. I thought I was smiling...